As a direct outcome of our school's strategic planning process, our faculty are considering the potential challenges and opportunities of a name change for the School of Forest Resources.
“Nothing remains without change.” Change can be sad or it can be exhilarating, but often it is a mix of both emotions. A favorite hiking or hunting place lost by acts of nature or humans, children growing up and leaving home, retirement after a long and productive career, a paradigm shift in a profession or discipline, a new realization of the responsibilities of global connectedness, and the reality borne out of urbanization.
Our own disciplines and professions have undergone profound changes. The 20th century forest management paradigm was based largely on an output oriented sustainable-yield model and focused at the stand level. This century‘s paradigm is based on an ecosystem approach, with an emphasis that is condition or state oriented; it takes a landscape view and its goal is the integrated and sustainable use of multiple resources. This too will change. All around us, changes abound. The traditional vertically structured forest-products company gives way to real-estate investment trusts. Land conversion becomes a critical issue in managing our resources. Predicting and adapting to climate change require a deeper level of interdisciplinary and institutional collaboration.
We have renewed and transformed our school over its 103-year history, strengthened by our resolve to offer high-quality and high-impact programs while remaining relevant and visionary. We view our mission broadly. We educate highly trained managers and scientists in a wide range of disciplines. Our graduates lead international programs in many areas of forestry, natural resources, restoration, and conservation. Our students work locally and globally. We are committed to the sustainability of the environments and communities we serve. As we consider a name change for the School of Forest Resources, we need to keep this legacy and this vision firmly in mind.
Over the past 15 years, we have developed a strategic planning process that has resulted in positive changes in curriculum and in student and faculty recruitment. Our streamlined undergraduate curriculum, Environmental Science and Resource Management, is attracting students and resulting in double-digit enrollment gains. Our strategic faculty recruitment process resulted in the hiring of 14 new faculty in the last three years, with a diverse set of skills that broadens our expertise in emerging disciplines. Exploring a name change for the school has consistently been discussed in our annual planning meetings, and my appointment of an ad hoc Name Change Committee is a responsible outcome of this effort.
If, as a faculty, we decide to change our school’s name, it will be the result of a long and thoughtful process in which we have discussed options among ourselves and have solicited input from the wider community. The change will not be made lightly, and consideration of the challenges and opportunities involved will be intense. But inevitably, the goals of remaining both relevant and visionary compel us to ask:
Our answers to these questions may lead us to a new name. If they do, I am confident we will choose a name that honors our long legacy of innovation and leadership and looks ahead toward continued stewardship of natural resources and the environment for future generations. A name change does not repudiate the past, it builds on our historical and current strengths, and it best enables us to move into the future.